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Behavioral health emergency response bills pass the Senate

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Democratic state Senator Stephanie Chang says the bills aim to make sure people are getting the help they’re looking for when they dial 9-1-1.

A pair of bills to boost local emergency response programs for people dealing with a mental health crisis has passed the state Senate.

SB 637 and 638 would create a Jail Diversion Fund and community crisis response grant program. They would provide resources to local law enforcement and community-based intervention services.

State Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) is a bill co-sponsor, along with Sen. Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes). Chang said the bills aim to make sure people are getting the help they’re looking for when they dial 911.

“There are probably far too many situations where a law enforcement officer is on the scene without necessarily having someone with a mental health professional background that’s able to actually get that person the support and the services that they need,” Chang said.

She said the bills are crafted so each community can bolster response in a way that works best locally.

“I think it’s just really important that we have those individuals who are trained in behavioral health, that those are the folks that are on the ground working with law enforcement to make sure we’re getting folks the help they need,” Chang said.

The Department of Health and Human Services budget for Fiscal Year 22 sets aside 5-million-dollars for the proposed Jail Diversion Fund.

Supporters say these bills would give much-needed aid to already existing local efforts.

“Currently, there are 51 crisis lines in Michigan, but they are very thinly staffed. Most are not 24/7. Some can only serve kids, some can only serve adults. Some can only serve people on Medicaid—that’s how they’re financed. And that’s not what a community needs,” Bob Sheehan, executive director of the Community Mental Health Association of Michigan, said. He added that he feels Michigan’s public mental health system is already strong, with these bills pushing the state further ahead.

“These are evidence-based practices and Michigan really seeks them, puts into practice,” Sheehan said.

Both bills passed the Senate with unanimous support. They now head to the House of Representatives.